The Prime Minister said he hopes for a bright future for Appledore following news of the historic yard’s revival.
Boris Johnson visited the shipyard on Tuesday (August 25) after it was announced the yard had been acquired by Harland and Wolff owner Infrastrata for £7million.
The deal will see the shipyard, which was closed by Babcock in March 2019, renamed H&W Appledore.
Infrastrata hopes to bring in some 350 jobs to the shipyard in the next 18 months, with the ‘potential for another 1,000’ and is set to start a recruitment campaign as early as next week.
The Prime Minister welcomed news of the yard’s acquisition, calling it an ‘exciting new chapter’ for the village.
“This exciting new chapter for Appledore will create hundreds of new jobs in the South West and beyond, and will drive forward our ambitions to become a shipbuilding superpower,” he said.
Speaking to the Gazette after his tour of the yard, Mr Johnson said he was ‘hopeful’ the Government could help Appledore Shipyard grow.
He said: “It’s got incredible history, but it’s been through some very tough times and we’re hoping that we can get a good order book going.
“It’s hard, and the Covid crisis hasn’t made things any easier but I’m very, very confident there are things we can do to get jobs and growth going here.
“There are potential contracts, and for reasons of commercial confidentiality and because of the procurement process I can’t go into the things that I would like to see, but I am hopeful.
“I think it’s important not to over promise but I do genuinely think there’s a potential fantastic future here. If we can get things moving fast enough.
“We have demand and we need to get Appledore and Harland and Wolff in Belfast ready to start making things again – that’s the plan.”
Infrastrata acquired the Harland and Wolff yard in Belfast in December 2019, and believe the Appledore facility will be the ‘go-to’ yard for small vessel requirements.
It said while each yard will be a standalone business in its own right, the two could work together on certain builds.
The immediate future will see the shipyard undergoing repairs, with three months of work to fix the dock gate first on the list.
Chief executive John Wood said: “We are now ready to welcome clients back into the yard. There is a huge pipeline of potential opportunities and we look forward to finalising the details of our first contract so that we can get the shipyard fully operational.
“In the meantime, we will be carrying out routine maintenance on the dock gate and other critical assets between now and the end of 2020 increasing our investment in this strategic asset.
“A skilled local workforce is crucial to our success and as part of the acquisition, we have put in place a new apprenticeship and training programme for young people that will ensure Appledore can be globally successful for decades to come.
“Over the coming weeks we will be welcoming some old faces back into the yard and introducing new employees, ensuring that we have a truly balanced, experienced and well-rounded workforce.”
Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox said the Prime Minister’s visit to the shipyard signalled the Government’s ‘powerful support’ in getting it reopened.
He said: “The Prime Minster committed a year ago to securing the reopening of Appeldore Shipyard and this represents the fulfilment of that commitment.
“The Government, Myself, others in the background have been working for months to reopen this yard. We’ve gone through a number of operators. What has changed now is that a credible operator, the owners of Harland and Wolff, the owners of the largest shipyard in Britain in Belfast, have come to take over this yard and to build back shipbuilding in our area.
“I think it’s a great day and the Prime Minister’s presence today signals the powerful support that the government has for the reopening of this yard.
“They are proper shipbuilders – Babcock were not. The chief executive told me ‘Geoffrey we’re not ship builders’.
“These owners are and this is the beginning of a new era for Appledore shipyard.”